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Coronavirus France: Anti-lockdown riots break out in Paris

Riots have broken out in Paris amid anger over police ‘heavy-handed’ treatment of ethnic minorities during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Tear gas and baton charges were fired by police in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, northern Paris, in the early hours this morning as fireworks exploded in the street. 

Armed police were seen moving through the area as groups of protesters congregated. 

It comes after a 30-year-old was critically injured in the neighbourhood in a collision with an unmarked police car.

President Emmanuel Macron extended France’s social distancing measures until May 11. Its daily death toll from the virus fell to the lowest level in three weeks today as 395 deaths were recorded, bringing the total to 19,718.

Riots have broken out in the Parisian suburb of Villeneuve-la-Garenne following allegations of heavy handedness against ethnic minorities by police forces. (Pictured: An officer asks a journalist to step back in the suburb early on Monday morning)

A firework explodes in the middle of the street in the French suburb early this morning

Protesters fired fireworks at buildings and into police officers in early hours of this morning

Protesters fired fireworks at buildings and into police officers in early hours of this morning

A car waits at a cross roads in the neighbourhood as fireworks explode overhead

A car waits at a cross roads in the neighbourhood as fireworks explode overhead

Fireworks dyed the sky red above the Parisian suburb early this morning, videos posted on social media show.

Bins were also filmed blazing and filling the air with smoke as armed police moved into the area.

Police were filmed manhandling French journalist Taha Bouhafs, who is from an Algerian background, and holding his arms behind his back.

He had filmed tear gas canisters being fired by officers who were hit by numerous fireworks.

The early morning violence followed prosecutors opening an enquiry after a 30-year-old motorcyclist was critically injured following a collision with an unmarked police car in Villeneuve-la-Garenne.

Friends of the victim, who have not been named, claimed the incident on Saturday night was an example of police heavy-handedness against ethnic minority communities during the lockdown.

‘The very badly injured man comes from an Arab Muslim background,’ said a source close to the case.

‘He is critical in hospital, and people in the area have reacted very badly to what has happened.’

A local police spokesman said: ‘Police and their reinforcements have been the target of rioters, who have thrown stones and fireworks.

‘The violence started in Villeneuve-la-Garenne and has spread to other towns and estates nearby.’

A firework pictured exploding over a street in the north Parisian suburb early this morning

A firework pictured exploding over a street in the north Parisian suburb early this morning

Protesters let off fireworks. The riots were triggered after a 30-year-old man was severely injured in a collision with an unmarked police car in the area

Protesters let off fireworks. The riots were triggered after a 30-year-old man was severely injured in a collision with an unmarked police car in the area

Police threw tear gas and baton charges as they moved to disperse protesters in the area

Police threw tear gas and baton charges as they moved to disperse protesters in the area

A police officer was seen carrying a large gun as they moved through the neighbourhood

A police officer was seen carrying a large gun as they moved through the neighbourhood

Last week prosecutors in Béziers, in the south of France, announced that officers were facing criminal charges after a father-of-three died while under arrest for breaching the Coronavirus lockdown.

Three officers were videoed dragging Mohamed Gabsi, 33, along the ground during a curfew.

They are suspected of ‘intentional violence by a public official leading to manslaughter’ and ‘non assistance of a person in danger’.

The offences come with a potential combined prison sentence of 15 years plus, said local prosecutors.

The case is particularly sensitive because Mr Gabsi was a Muslim, and Béziers is run by a far-Right mayor who is supported by the National Rally party, which used to be called the National Front.

Mr Gabsi had suffered a heart attack by the time he arrived at a local police station, and witnesses saw two of the officers sitting on top of him in their patrol car.

Mr Gabsi’s suspicious death follows numerous complaints about police racism as forces across France enforce one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.

A spokesman for France’s Human Rights League described the death of Mr Gabsi, who was from an Arab background, as a ‘scandal that shows how the poor are being killed’ by the lockdown.

French journalist Taha Bouhafs, who is from an Algerian background, is manhandled by police

French journalist Taha Bouhafs, who is from an Algerian background, is manhandled by police

Two officers hold the journalist's arms behind his back. He was reporting on the protests

Two officers hold the journalist’s arms behind his back. He was reporting on the protests

France on Tuesday reported a total of 19,718 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the health emergency. A total of 152,894 cases have also been detected in the country.

Its stringent lockdown measures are ‘working’, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a press conference today. 

French authorities have said they will publish plans for ending the lockdown ‘within two weeks’, and begins to air their strategy ‘in the coming days’. 

‘It is likely that we are not going to see an end to confinement that would happen in one move everywhere and for everyone,’ Mr Philippe said, revealing details of the strategy.

The French lockdown could lead to a 10 per cent contraction in the French economy this year.

The country has been in lockdown from March 17, and this will continue until at least May 11.

 

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